There are three things I typically think of when the name “Medusa” floats across my radar. 1) The 1981 movie “Clash of the Titans” replete with the incredibly outdated stop/start special effects of Ray Harryhausen. 2) The extremely fun and scary roller coaster at the Six Flags theme park in Vallejo, California named “Medusa”, and 3) The Gorgon head at the Roman temple complex at Bath, England which really has nothing to do with Medusa, but always reminds of her anyway.
But then everything changed. In the past month I’ve written a ritual song for Medusa, created a “Medusa” playlist on my phone, researched tattoo reference materials for my upper right arm, and come face to face with her. Looking at Medusa, or rather having her look directly at me square in the eyes, produced the completely disarming effect of simultaneously turning me to stone, making my knees wobble like a blancmange on a skateboard and reducing me to a blubbering, crying mess, unable to do much of anything, not the least of which was priestessing a ritual I was in the middle of at the time.
And the after effects haven’t been much easier on me either. Since our meeting, or as I like to affectionately call it, “the night I had the bejeebus scared out of me”, She and I have been in a near constant conversation. And by conversation, I mean she’s in my thoughts constantly and talks incessantly. The conversation goes a bit like this:
- “Gwion, where have you turned your own heart to stone?”
- “Um Gwion, Medusa here. Just curious, where have your actions caused you to harden the heart of someone else?”
- “Gwion, I know you’re not always the sharpest tool in the tool shed, but you realize that now you’ve seen what I see, you can’t unsee it and you have to do something about it, right? I mean, you do get that, don’t you?”
So, perhaps a little context would be helpful – I was recently asked to co-facilitate a music path at Spiralheart Witchcamp. The story the organisers and ritual team used as a foundation for the camp to be built around, was a re-imagining of Medusa’s story called “Monster I am – Medusa and the unflinching gaze” written by Orion Watersong. You can learn more about Orion’s work with Medusa and their thoughts about The Unflinching Gaze here. During one of the nightly rituals, held in an incredible stone circle, I had the chance to meet with Medusa and interact with several people serving as stone statues, victims of Medusa’s gaze.
And what was going through my mind and my body just then was that I can’t look away, not any more. Not ever. – Not from the challenges in my own life. Not from hard conversations with community (communities). Not from the truths about who I am and how I’ll show up (or don’t) and what I want and what I’ll lie about and where I’ll shade the truth to spare feelings and how I’ll die inside when I don’t speak up and out and say what is true for me.
And that’s what Medusa says to me every day. “Did you speak up, Gwion? Did you do what you said you would do? Are you going to do your magic today? Will you write? Can you sing? Will you sit on the couch again and moan about your body and the stories you tell yourself about your worth? Are you willing to wash that clay off and risk coming back to life, knowing that your opened heart is vulnerable and precious and easily turned back to stone?
During that ritual, during the ritual gatherings for the rest of that camp, every time I look in the mirror I see her peering back at me. Medusa looked deep inside of me. In her eyes, my own monsters were keenly reflected. Said another way, she showed me where I am monstrous. She showed me that being a monster can be both powerful and agonizing. She showed things I dearly wish I had never seen and she showed me what I must see.
I don’t know yet if Medusa will stay in my life for a long while or if she’s a visitor with a message designed to shock me back into action right now. What I know is that I must keep seeing, must keep moving my unfrozen body, must look again and again and again at what is in front of me.
I don’t want to do this work. If I’m to find my magic again, if I’m to find the parts of me that I’ve lost over the past few years. Then I have no choice but to look. And look I must.